Does defeat in Kobane mark the beginning of the end for ISIS?

Al Jazeera reports: Losing Kobane after more than four months of intense fighting is a significant propaganda blow to ISIL. The group invested extensive military resources to capture the isolated town on the border with Turkey.

“Daesh [ISIL] took most of the places it wanted in Syria and Iraq but could not capture Kobane,” said Anwar Muslim, the prime minister of the self-ruled administration of Kobane, referring to the organisation by its Arabic name.

“This victory marks the beginning of the end for Daesh.”

Kurdish forces have so far taken control of at least three villages in the southern surroundings of Kobane. It will be a highly challenging task for them to expel ISIL from the dozens of villages that dot the plains around the agricultural town. [Continue reading…]

Robin Wright writes: Stuart Jones, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, told Al Arabiya last week that more than six thousand militants, including many top commanders, have died in Iraq and Syria since launching their blitz last summer. Some are apparently no longer so keen on martyrdom. The senior Administration official also said that the human toll may be demoralizing to ISIS. “We track quite closely the over-all attrition of its ranks, its vehicles, and the dissension it has caused within the organization,” he said. “We understand that a lot of its fighters now are simply refusing to go to Kobani, and the fighters refusing to go to Kobani are being assassinated by ISIL.”

The campaign has been expensive for the West. The U.S.-led coalition ran more than six hundred airstrikes on Kobani — eighty per cent of all its bombings in Syria — which cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Kobani has certainly paid a price. Fighting and bombings have destroyed half the city, which now has no economy, let alone electricity. There is little left for the forty thousand residents who fled; many may remain refugees for some time.

Kobani’s fate could have little impact on how the rest of Syria fares. It may be true, as the senior Administration official told me, that in areas of northern Iraq where ISIS’s command and control is broken down, “its ability to direct fighters to certain areas of the front — where, whenever fighters go there, they never return — is not nearly what it was four months ago.” But the Islamic State nevertheless appears capable of recruiting more men. Twenty thousand foreigners have now gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. It is “the largest mobilization of foreign fighters in Muslim countries since 1945,” the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, at King’s College London, reported on Monday.

The total number of foreign fighters now exceeds that of foreigners mobilized during the ten-year war against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, which was the genesis of extremist movements like Al Qaeda. Unlike the situation in the eighties, though, nearly a fifth of today’s fighters — some four thousand — are residents or nationals of Western European countries, the I.C.S.R. reported. The largest numbers come from France, Britain, and Germany. Others come from Ukraine, China, and New Zealand. [Continue reading…]

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